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The Annual Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1910, Auckland: Clark & Matheson, 1911, pages 3-11.

By Cecil Wilson

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2010

[3] The Annual Report


Melanesian Mission

For 1910.


"Is not God now i' the world His Power first made?
"Is not His love at issue still with sin
"Visibly when a wrong is done on earth?"

R. BROWNING--"A Death in the Desert."

THE past year was an eventful one. On the whole good progress was made throughout the Diocese. In the Banks Islands, as was foreshadowed in my last report, we took measures to eradicate Suqe and other customs which had proved themselves harmful. We also faced plainly, for the first time, the question of the desirability of moving the headquarters of the Bishop and the chief training school from Norfolk Island (where they have been since 1867) to the Islands themselves.

I.--The Principal Events of the Year.

The Mission staff lost Mr. ]. C. Palmer, Miss Kitchen, and Miss Owen; and gained Archdeacon Uthwatt, Rev. C. Turner, Rev. H. L. Hart, and Miss Cooper. The Rev. G. H. Andrews returned to the Mission, after two years at S. John's College, Auckland.

On April 10th the Rev. R. E. Freeth and Rev. G. K. Moir were ordained priest and deacon respectively at S. Barnabas, Norfolk Island. Mr. Andrews was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Auckland.

[4] The two Archdeacons, Ven. R. B. Comins and Ven. T. C. Cullwick, resigned their Archdeaconries, to make room for younger men resident in the Islands. I instituted the Rev. L. Andrewes Uthwatt, late curate of Portsea, to the Northern Archdeaconry, but was obliged for the time being to leave the Southern one vacant.

The Mission station at Norfolk Island was honoured with a visit by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Chelmsford, an account of which will be found in the Norfolk Island report.

The new central school at Bungana, an island off Gela, was opened on St. Luke's Day, the Rev. R. P. Wilson, with his sister to assist him, being placed in charge.

We began to work in the Santa Cruz group on the brotherhood system, the Rev. H. N. Drummond, Mr. J. W. Blencowe, and Rev. C. Turner, with native volunteers from various islands, living together at Namu, Graciosa Bay, and holding services on fixed days in all the villages. The advantage of this system is that teachers are not left to stand alone in heathen villages, at a great risk to themselves and the cause that they represent. The new plan was very successful. I should like to see four "brothers" at work together here. Very good results would ensue.

The Rev. H. N. Drummond baptized 10 persons in the Reef Islands, and carried forward the preparation of many of the Nukapu people for baptism. A Pileni man, Cyprian Matoa, opened work in the Duff group at Taumako.

Work on the Maravovo cocoanut plantation in Guadalcanar was placed on a permanent basis, and land for about 2,000 trees cleared and planted, under the superintendence of Mr. Clifford Buffett.

Land was purchased from the natives for the future development of the Mission at Maravovo and Vulavu in Guadalcanar, the island of Kumaigola off Bugotu, and the hinterland of Lolowai in Opa.

Mr. E. Bourne carried on the work of the late Dr. Welchman in Bugotu, the Rev. S. Howard also giving his services at the end of the year.

The Rev. Robert Pantutun died at Mota in August. He was ordained deacon in 1872.

Another valuable life laid down during the year was that of Mr. Allen Christian, our head carpenter in the Islands. [4/5] For many years he has been of our party by the Southern Cross in April, returning in November, and almost every Missionary's house in the Islands is his work. He was loved by the natives, and respected by the whole Mission.

The first Vaukolu (or Church Congress) of the Guadalcanar Christians was held at Mr. Moir's station, Volanivua, and rules and regulations affecting the social and Christian life of the people were laid down. Ten villages of the Tasimboko district were represented.

New churches were dedicated at Aniaru in Raga, Manifuki in San Cristoval, Norefou in North Mala, and Roapu in South Mala, the last three being built of stone or concrete.

Walter Woser, formerly deacon in Motalava (but degraded for slackness and neglect of duty) was restored to his diaconate, having shewn himself, during the past five years, worthy of the office.

"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings."--The small Santa Cruz boys, at home for their holidays, after two years or more at St. Patrick's, Vureas, established a school at Nebi, one boy of about 14 years of age holding a class for 20 women. This speaks well for the work done at St. Patrick's under the Rev. H. V. and Mrs. Adams.

The Rev. R. E. Freeth took over the Banks Islands district from Mr. J. C. Palmer, and visited all the islands.

The Mission station at Pamua in San Cristoval was twice raided, the natives taking advantage of Mr. Drew's absence in England. The neighbourhood of this station was much disturbed at the beginning of the year, and there was some severe fighting in the bush behind.

The trouble caused in Ulawa by the native priest's fall is less marked than it was, but still the clouds over this once bright little church have by no means passed away. The guilty man has confessed much, but probably not all his guilt,* [* He has since confessed everything, and is deeply penitent.] and remains excommunicate. His son, Martin, has proved himself a hero, and carried on the school at Matoa in face of the most vexatious opposition from his father's enemies. One form which this hostility took was an attempt to build a club-house, with heathen rites and decorations, in the midst of the school village. Happily this was all cleared [5/6] away on my threat to remove the school and close the church if this heathenism was not abandoned. Both here and in South Mala the Rev. W. H. Sage has had a hard battle to fight, but there are now certainly signs of improvement.

Mr. Hopkins' schools in North Mala are spreading themselves out along that wild coast. A man was shot on the verandah of the Mission house at Norefou in Mr. Hopkins' presence. The school at Fiu, Mr. C. C. Sage's station, is excellent. Behind the village dwell three friendly chiefs and their people, but one very hostile village makes a watch necessary at all times, particularly on dark nights.

Complaints were frequent in the New Hebrides, Banks, and Torres groups of outrages by traders on the natives. I was told by four men of their wives being stolen, and two traders I found selling or giving grog to the natives. The Rev. H. N. Drummond and Rev. S. Howard in the New Hebrides, and the Rev. W. J. Durrad in the Torres, reported illegal acts committed apparently with impunity on the defenceless natives. I laid the natives' troubles before Mr. King, the British Commissioner, in the New Hebrides.

The site chosen on Bungana for the hospital in the Solomons seemed, after that island had been cleared, to be too small for it, and we looked about for a more suitable position. This, up to the present, we have not found. Dr. Quaife, the medical officer of Messrs. Lever's firm, very kindly drew out some plans for the building. The hospital fund was raised to £1,000 out of £1,500 required.

A ketch-rigged vessel, of 30 tons, with motor power, for the use of the Archdeacon of the Solomons, was ordered in Auckland. The money for it (£1,500) was collected in England, and an additional £250 in New Zealand.

At the request of the Australian Board of Missions--that is of the 24 Bishops of Australia--the Mission gave up all its organization in the Commonwealth, and placed itself unreservedly in their hands. Previous to this we had been allowed to raise ourselves what money we could for the Mission, and to this end we had maintained an Organizing Secretary, offices and Secretaries in Sydney and Melbourne, the profit to the Mission being about £2,000 a year. This plan suited us well, as we had a large number of old and tried friends, who made Melanesia their special care, and spared no efforts or sacrifices to help us. Yet, it seemed to us only right, when asked by the Bishops to do so, to give up [6/7] our organization in their dioceses; in fact, we believed we could do nothing else. But by taking this step we have distressed many of our most valued friends, and we deeply regret it. We rely upon the A.B.M. now fully to accept the responsibility for the Mission's support in Australia.

2.--Heathen Customs in the Banks Islands.

We made a strong effort to eradicate certain native customs in the Banks Islands, which had been permitted by the Mission in its early days, in the belief that as Christianity strengthened its hold on the people they would themselves abandon them. In later days, seeing how much time was wasted in the ceremonies connected with these customs, an attempt was made, but without success, to regulate them. Forty years have now passed since these Islanders accepted Christianity, and we find that these old ways are at root heathenism, pure and simple, with an exceedingly strong hold on some or the people; that all our efforts to curb or Christianize them have failed; and that we must now either forbid them altogether to the Church or else see the Church go under.

We did our best last year to persuade the people to shake themselves free, and this they did as long as we were with them. In Mota, where life without Suqe seemed to most of the men to be quite impossible, they promised to try to do without it just for one year. If at the end of that time the island was not impoverished they said they would give it up altogether.

That these customs nourish heathenism is shewn by the fact that power to rise in rank in the Suqe is sought for from their old spirits; that sacrifices are still often offered; that rain, wind, and sunshine are bought from weather doctors: and that magic is practised to procure health, or sickness and death. We found that the younger men were generally with us, whilst our strongest opponents were men well advanced in life, who had paid much money to attain their rank. These, baptized perhaps 40 years ago, had never come to see, as it was then hoped they would, that these things, though perhaps lawful, provided the heathenism was purged out of them, were not expedient.

It is a great gain that we now see plainly the incompatibility of Christianity with these customs which are really superstitions, much as we dislike from an anthropological point of view, interfering with native institutions. Whether [7/8] the old customs, which unquestionably keep heathenism alive, can now be stamped out is a question not yet to be answered. I believe that our only hope of doing so lies in a strong staff of Mission workers (both men and women) located in this group of Islands, for the natives will never free themselves without our help.

3.--Removal of the Mission from Norfolk Island suggested.

As all who read this report know, in 1867 the Mission moved its headquarters and training school from Kohimarama, near Auckland, to Norfolk Island, because that Island was 600 miles nearer to Bishop Patteson's work; also because it had a climate which suited white people and natives alike; and further because Auckland had become too "civilized" to be the quiet place which the Bishop needed for training his Melanesian boys.

For some time a feeling has been growing in the Mission that the time was near for taking another step forward, and giving up Norfolk Island, in order to concentrate our forces in the Islands.

There is much to be said in favour of removal:--

1. All the other Missions--Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Queensland Evangelical--have their head-quarters and training schools in the Islands and not far away, as we have, and thereby they have a great advantage over us.

2. The moral force of a large institution in the midst of our workers, white and native, would be great. Norfolk Island sends out, possibly, 20 new teachers every year, but it is too far away to be felt as a support by the 700 who are already at work in the field. Six central schools in the Islands (after the Norfolk Island pattern, but smaller) would provide more teachers, and would back them up better than Norfolk Island can.

3. The centre of gravity of the Mission has changed in the past 10 years. Our Missionaries formerly returned every year, one and all, before Christmas to Norfolk Island, for the summer months. Now they are, with the exception of the Norfolk Island permanent staff, resident in the Islands. It is [8/9] evident then that the Bishop, at any rate, should make his head-quarters in the Islands amongst his workers.

4. Three different steamers now call regularly at the Solomons, Santa Cruz, and Banks Islands. There would, therefore, be no danger whatever of the Island schools running out of supplies.

5. The cost of education of the teachers would be lessened, if taught in their own islands, instead of being carried to an island more than a thousand miles away.

6. Our own lands would be developed by the work of our school-boys, and the Mission made largely self-supporting by the production of copra and india-rubber.

It must be remembered that the terms under which we hold our lands in the Islands are that 1/10 must be cleared in every five years. If this is not done, the Mission will lose its land. Our land at Norfolk Island is held under special terms from the New South Wales Government, and will revert to the Government if not used for Mission purposes. It is plainly to the Mission's interest, therefore, to develop its own lands, and put the Mission in a good position hereafter.

There are other reasons for removal, which might be urged, but these may be sufficient.

There is, on the other hand, much also to be said against the total abandonment of Norfolk Island, e.g.:--

  1. The expense of removal.


  1. The loss we should incur when we sold our Norfolk Island land.

3. The healthiness of Norfolk Island, which makes it possible for men who have broken down in the Islands to remain in the Mission, and continue their work.

4. The comparative unhealthiness of the Islands, making some in the Mission doubt if the schools there will be permanent.

5. The Patteson Memorial Chapel and Library, and all the priceless associations which Norfolk Island has for the Mission seem to some to hold us there.

[10] 6. Some dread a weakening of the bonds between the New Zealand Church and the Mission if Norfolk Island were left; others believe that we should lose valuable friends by taking such a revolutionary step.

7. The Mission itself is not unanimously in favour of it.

Other reasons besides these could, no doubt, be urged on this side also.

The matter stands thus:--We have a strongly-worded memorandum from Bishop Montgomery, the Secretary of the S.P.G., urging us to make the great renunciation, and speaking of Norfolk Island as one of the chief hindrances to our progress.

We have also a long memorandum from the Rev. C. W. Browning (who was for nine years one of us, and is now on the English Committee) telling us that we must either divide the Diocese, and give Norfolk Island to the southern division, or else abandon Norfolk Island, and transfer the headquarters to the Solomons.

Every missionary working the Islands last year gave it as his or her opinion that the headquarters should be removed from Norfolk Island, although it is fair to say that four of them afterwards (when at Norfolk Island) modified their opinions.

I have myself, reluctantly, in the last two years, come to believe that the removal is a step inevitable, and a necessary part of the future progress and development of the Mission.

On the other hand, seven of the eight men who were at Norfolk Island last Christmas (including the Rev. T. C. Cullwick and Dr. Comins) declared that in their opinion "the abandonment, in the near future, of Norfolk Island as a training college for Melanesian teachers is most un desirable."

Holding the opinion that I did, and finding it to be held also by my staff in the Islands, and by some even of the permanent staff at Norfolk Island, as well as by Bishop Montgomery and Mr. Browning, in England, and being unable (for family reasons) to live myself altogether in the Islands, I announced my intention to retire, and sent in my resignation to the Primate of New Zealand, to date from July 31st next.

The Mission is now agreed that the Bishop should live in the Islands, and not at Norfolk Island; but it has left open [10/11] the question of the removal of the training school for settlement at a future date.

This, then, is the last annual report of the Melanesian Mission that it will fall to me to write. It will be with a very sad heart that I shall hang up my sword and my shield, when my work is done, but with deep gratitude to God that He has continued to bless the Mission during the 17 years in which I now have been its leader.

It will be hard, indeed, to say "Good bye" to all within the Mission and outside it, whose self-denial and self-sacrifice I have watched for years, as they have bent their energies to the bringing of the Melanesian race into the Kingdom. It will be hard, also, to say "Good bye" to the Southern Cross her captain and crew, and the life and work and companionship of the Mission-workers, traders, natives who gathered on board her. It will be hardest of all to say "Good bye" to the natives.

The Mission is greatly indebted to its many friends. I cannot possibly thank them all, and they do not wish me to, and yet I should like them to know how truly grateful I have been for their support in bad times and good.

Those who love our Mission will join with us in praying that a new leader may be soon given to it, that God will make His way plain in the difficult problem which it has before it, and that it may be built up and its work consolidated in the coming years.

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